vol.039 - An interview with research fellows visiting NIHU – PhD candidate Claudia Dellacasa

An interview with research fellows visiting NIHU – PhD candidate Claudia Dellacasa

We asked PhD candidate Claudia Dellacasa, a 2018International Placement Scheme (IPS) fellow of the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), her research interests and her fellowship experience at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken) in Kyoto. Claudia is currently enrolled in a PhD program at Durham University.


Claudia, what are your research interests and what projects are you working on now?
I am currently analysing Italian contemporary literature from a transnational perspective. Given the relevance of cultural interconnections nowadays, I aim to address the presence of such interplays in one of the most-known Italian authors of the XX century: Italo Calvino.

In particular, I am researching about his travels to Japan in 1976, his interest in Japanese literature and thought, and his elaboration of Japanese culture in his mature production. This fruitful and largely unexplored contact is unveiling very interesting ramifications in Calvino's development of post-Western and post-human discourses.

In general, coming from a background as a linguist, I seek to put into dialogue a philological approach to texts and a broader contextualization of them, in light of the position of Italian literature in the current global context.


How did you become interested in your research field?
My research takes root in my invaluable experience of cataloguing the books stored in Calvino’s personal library in Rome, consequently unveiling several books about Japanese literature and religions. This cataloguing experience was linked to my master’s thesis about the linguistic structure of Calvino’s novel Il barone rampante, in which context I was seeking to identify eighteenth-century texts that may have influenced the author’s prose.

Thus, my current doctoral project links my favourite Italian author, which I have been studying long, and a culture that I am more and more intrigued by and which I am exploring passionately, namely the Japanese.


Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? 10 years?
I love this time of my life: I am doing what I like the most – studying – in wonderful places – Durham, in the UK, and Kyoto, in Japan. Therefore, I hope to keep having this same enthusiasm for whichever research I will be conducting after my PhD, be they academic or "simply" personal, emotional, human.

The truth is that I am probably absorbing the concept of mujō, 'impermanence', and I prefer focusing as much as I can on the present, rather than on the future, which I am nevertheless quite optimistic about.


What was your most memorable moment during your IPS fellowship in Japan?
I have a lot of wonderful memories linked to my experience in Japan. I visited breath-taking places, such as Koyasan and Nikkō, astonishing temples and gardens in Kyōto and Tōkyō, and met caring people which I will never forget.

One of the most powerful moments I can recall now is the talk that I gave in Tokyo, in a pub in Shimokitazawa, organized by the Tokyo Humanities Project. Not only was it in one of the nicest areas of the city, but it gave me the opportunity to spread my research to a participating and curious international audience. I really appreciated the authenticity of the questions I was asked, the feeling that I was literally disseminating my ideas to people other than academics, and, most of all, I enjoyed the fact that the audience seemed to be truly interested in the transnational angle of my research.


What is your advice for students or early career researchers considering to do research in a different country or culture?
I would encourage them to overcome any fear, prepare their luggage and just go: the further the better! This was the first time that I experienced what it means to have a different physiognomy, to carry a name that is barely translatable in the language that everybody speaks, to come from a completely different culture. And, of course, it was not always easy: students should be ready for some blue mornings.

But overall, this was the most significant experience of my life, thus far. I could realise on my very skin the importance of understanding identities in their intersections, in their porosity: I think that it is only by exploring new identities and new cultures that one can find the others in oneself, and oneself in the others. If this is relevant in my academic research, it is even more so in my life as a citizen of a world that too often forgets the need for pacific dialogues and cultural encounters.


PhD candidate Claudia Dellacasa
Claudia Dellacasa is an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded second-year PhD student at Durham University, UK, where she is working on a project about the influences of Japanese culture on Italian author Italo Calvino. Claudia is postgraduate editor of the peer-reviewed journal MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities. Prior to commencing her PhD, she obtained a BA in Modern Literature and a MA in Modern Philology at La Sapienza University of Rome, where she is a member of 'Laboratorio Calvino'.

n her free time Claudia enjoys travelling around historical cities and nature reserves, watching movies and reading. She also loves sports and tries to run as much as British weather allows her!